Dr. Joela Jacobs is Assistant Professor of German Studies and Director of Graduate Studies for the MA and PhD programs in Transcultural German Studies, including the dual PhD/Dr. phil. degree program with the Universities of Leipzig and Cologne in Germany. She is affiliated faculty at the Arizona Institutes for Resilience: Solutions for the Environment and Society, the Department of Gender and Women's Studies, the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, and the Graduate Interdisciplinary Program on Social, Cultural and Critical Theory. After earning her Ph.D. in Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago, she held a postdoctoral position as Humanities Teaching Scholar there. Prior to coming to the US from Germany, she studied at the Universities of Bonn, St. Andrews, and the Freie Universität Berlin to receive her M.A. in German and English Philology.
Dr. Jacobs' research focuses on the intersection of 19th-21st century German literature and film with Plant Studies, Animal Studies, Environmental Humanities, Jewish Studies, the History of Sexuality, and the History of Science. She has published articles on monstrosity, multilingualism, literary censorship, biopolitics, animal epistemology, zoopoetics, critical plant studies, cultural environmentalism, and contemporary German Jewish identity. She also founded the Literary and Cultural Plant Studies Network together with Dr. Isabel Kranz at the University of Vienna and the support of artist Dani Stuchel.
Currently, she is working on a monograph that examines a preoccupation with non-human forms of life in the micro-genre of the literary grotesque (die Groteske) around 1900, which begins with Oskar Panizza's neo-romantic work in the 1890s, becomes a central element of modernism with authors such as Hanns Heinz Ewers and Salomo Friedlaender, and culminates in Franz Kafka's unique oeuvre. This genre creates a field of artistic experimentation that allows for the transgression of categories such as species, race, and gender by introducing a non-human perspective on sexual and linguistic normativity. The vegetal, animal, and marginalized human figures at the center of these grotesque texts challenge biopolitical measures of control through, for instance, their non-conformity with standard human language. This linguistic limitation is reinforced by the genre’s response to mechanisms of literary censorship, which resulted in new modes of expressing political dissent during modernity’s language crisis. One of these central strategies is the texts' provocative use of grotesque humor vis-à-vis normative conceptions of what it means to be human, which also marks the genre's distinct historical scope, as it perceptively critiques the rise of the New Human from 19th-century physiognomy to the wake of the Nazi rule.
Dr. Jacobs enjoys being in the classroom, both to teach the intricacies of German literature and language and to explore interdisciplinary connections surrounding fundamental questions about life and living beings with students. She has taught a wide range of courses on all levels of the German college curriculum and in adult & general education on topics such as German environmentalism, transatlantic perspectives on national trauma, (a)typical emotions in poetry, zombies, monsters, and fairy tales, Kafka's oeuvre, expressionist film, romanticism, and German Jewish literature. As a certified Teaching Consultant, she is always interested in talking pedagogy and classroom technology. In 2019, she won the College of Humanities Distinguished Teaching Award, and in 2020, she was honored with the University of Arizona Foundation Leicester and Kathryn Sherrill Creative Teaching Award.